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BREWERY BOTTLERS, LOCAL 1345 v. INTERNATIONAL BHD.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


February 20, 1962

BREWERY BOTTLERS & DRIVERS UNION LOCAL 1345, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, OF THE INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, Alfred P. Dunne, individually and as President thereof and Charles Molinary, individually and as Secretary-Treasurer thereof, James Kelsey, Andrew J. Weiss, William Hufnagel, Jack McLoughlin, Harry Henky, Ed Larsen and James Hanlon, Louis Willett, Robert McLoughlin, Walter Falko, Edward McCarthy, Tom Riley, Andrew Wachter, John Keary and Harry Brice, members of Brewery Bottlers & Drivers Union Local 1345, Brooklyn, New York, of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, on behalf of themselves and all other members similarly situated, plaintiffs,
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA, James R. Hoffa, individually and as General President thereof, John English, individually and as General Secretary-Treasurer thereof, Defendants

The opinion of the court was delivered by: MISHLER

Plaintiffs move for a temporary injunction enjoining defendants from proceeding in any manner to carry out or effect a merger of plaintiff Local 1345 with any other I.B.T. local union or unions or otherwise to suspend, limit or terminate the autonomy of Local 1345, and from conducting a referendum among the combined memberships of Locals Nos. 1, 8, 124, 329, 1059, 1096 and 1345 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for approval of the merger.

The action is brought by Brewery Bottlers & Drivers Union Local 1345, Brooklyn, New York, of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America (hereinafter called Local 1345) and members of said Local 1345 on behalf of themselves and all other members similarly situated against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America (hereinafter called International) and its General President, James R. Hoffa, and General Secretary, John English.

 The claim stated in the complaint alleges that Local 1345 has functioned as an autonomous local union for upwards of 75 years; that its members (approximately 2500) are employed in bottling and delivering beer for five major beer companies; that they enjoy prime seniority and other valuable benefits; in 1953, Local 1345 was affiliated along with other locals with the International; under the conditions of affiliation, Local 1345 was to retain full autonomy and maintain its jurisdiction; on or about January 27, 1962, Local 1345 and six other locals affiliated with the International were advised that, the General Executive Board of the International voted to adopt a report proposing '* * * a merger of 7 Teamster locals in New York City into two newly-chartered local unions.' i.e., a 'production' local and a 'delivery' local; the referendum is to be conducted among the seven locals as one combined unit; the membership of Local 1345 is overwhelmingly opposed to the merger but the greater number of votes of the other locals may effectively destroy Local 1345.

 The gravamen of claim and the basis for invoking the jurisdiction of the Court are stated in paragraphs 25 and 26 of the complaint. It states that the merger would constitute a method of supervision or control whereby the International would be suspending the autonomy otherwise available under its constitution and by-laws and therefore a trusteeship as defined in the Labor-management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (referred to hereinafter by the abbreviation L.M.R.D.A.). Further, that said 'trusteeship by merger' is not for the purposes set forth, in the L.M.R.D.A.

 The threshold question is one of jurisdiction. The consequences of the contemplated merger, its economic effect in the industry, and the possible benefits that might accrue to the members generally are not the subject of this determination. *fn1"

 Article XV, Section 1 of the Constitution and By-Laws of Local 1345 provides:

 'This Local Constitution is at all times subject to the provisions of the International Constitution.'

 And Article XVII, Section 1 of the Constitution and By-Laws of Local 1345 provides:

 'These By-Laws are subject to the Constitution of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and applicable conference By-Laws.'

 It may be stated as a broad general principle that courts will not interfere with internal machinery of a labor union. The decision to become affiliated with the International was one of policy; the purported reservation of autonomy was a futile attempt to retain freedom of action while becoming an integral part of the International. The concept of the reservation of autonomy is elusive and confusing. *fn2"

 Viewed by parties outside its structure, a local is seen as one of the parts of the parent union. It cannot be destroyed without the consent of the parent union. M & M Woodworking Co. v. Plywood & Veneer Workers Union No. 102, D.C., 23 F.Supp. 11. Nor can it vote to dissolve though a majority wish it. Low v. Harris, 7 Cir., 90 F.2d 783. Where the parent union constitution provides for affiliation, so long as ten members in good standing favor affiliation, a vote of two-thirds of the members for withdrawal will not dissolve affiliation. M & M Woodworking Co. v. N.L.R.B., 9 Cir., 101 F.2d 938. Under Article XX of the International Constitution 'No Local Union can dissolve, secede or disaffiliate without the approval of the General Executive Board while there are seven (7) dissenting members.' It appears clear that autonomy does not necessarily mean the right of the majority to make decisions for the local in its relationship to the parent union.

 Section 11 of Article IX of the International Constitution states as follows:

 'Mergers

 'Section 11. The General Executive Board in its sound discretion shall have the power to merge Local Unions and other subordinate bodies under such terms and conditions and subject to such qualifications as the General Executive Board may determine, taking into consideration such circumstances as financial conditions, jurisdiction, location, and such other facts as it appears appropriate in connection with the Local Unions and other subordinate bodies involved.'

 The complaint does not challenge the validity of the provision aforestated. It is not within the Court's jurisdiction to pass upon the wisdom or propriety of the merger of local unions. The plaintiff claims that Title III of the L.M.R.D.A. severely limited the power of the International as defined in its constitution. The complaint in effect states that the prospective merger will violated Title III of the L.M.R.D.A. entitled 'Trusteeships'. Trusteeship is defined by the L.M.R.D.A. 73 Stat. 520, 29 U.S.C.A. § 402(h), as follows:

 "Trusteeship' means any receivership, trusteeship, or other method of supervision or control whereby a labor organization suspends the autonomy otherwise available to a subordinate body under its constitution or bylaws.'

 The nub of plaintiffs' complaint is that since merger would destroy the union, its autonomy would thereby be suspended, and the merger would constitute a method of supervision or control.

 The Court knows of no reported case that defines Trusteeship as used in the L.M.R.D.A. in determining whether a merger is a '* * * method of supervision or control whereby a labor organization suspends the autonomy * * *.'

 The history of the L.M.R.D.A. shows the general awareness of the abuse that brought forth the pertinent provisions. A reading of the Daily Congressional Record reveals that various Congressmen spoke out against the abuse of the power to place subordinate bodies under trusteeships or supervisorships. *fn3"

 The defendant, International, was the prime target of the corrective legislation. *fn4" The practice employed consisted of the suspension or removal of duly elected officers of the subordinate body, and the appointment by the International of its agent designated as 'trustee', 'receiver', or 'supervisor'. The authority of the duly elected officials of the subordinate union was flouted and the rights of members abrogated. The right of the parent union to appoint a trustee has not been denied it in the L.M.R.D.A.; indeed the need for such supervisory power has been acknowledged by the confirmation of such right. *fn5"

 Congress has not denied a labor organization the right to merge local unions. Were the Court to adopt plaintiffs' definition of a trusteeship as urged here, the right of a labor organization to merge locals would be permitted only '* * * for the purpose of correcting corruption or financial malpractice * * *.' Sec. 302 L.M.R.D.A., 73 Stat. 531, 29 U.S.C.A. § 462. Such an interpretation would effectively frustrate the power of a labor organization to merge subordinate local unions. Nothing in the legislative history indicates a Congressional intent to curb, limit or render ineffective the power to direct merger. The desirability of merger is usually a matter of union policy dictated by economic considerations. The differences in merger and trusteeship (or receivership, or a method of supervision or control whereby a labor organization suspends autonomy) are highlighted by the anomalies that spring forth in attempting to fit a merger within the contour of Sec. 302 of the L.M.R.D.A. as delineated by Congress. For the Court to go beyond the pale of the power defined in the L.M.R.D.A. to cure a real or fancied economic ill would be a usurpation of the legislative power.

 It therefore appearing that this Court does not have jurisdiction of the subject matter stated in the complaint, motion is denied, and on the Court's motion, the complaint is dismissed. Mitchell v. Maurer, 293 U.S. 237, 244, 55 S. Ct. 162, 165, 79 L. Ed. 338. Barron & Holtzoff Federal Practice and Procedure, Volume 1, page 91.

 Settle order on two days notice, directing the entry of judgment dismissing the complaint.


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